Landscape Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 403–417 | Cite as

Empirical relationships between land use/cover and estuarine condition in the Northeastern United States

  • Wilfrid Rodriguez
  • Peter V. August
  • Yeqiao Wang
  • John F. Paul
  • Arthur Gold
  • Norman Rubinstein
Research Article


Land–water interactions were examined in three regions in the Virginian Biogeographic Province; the southern shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts; the Hudson/Raritan region of New York; and the eastern shore of the Delmarva (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) Peninsula. Cumulative distribution functions were used to evaluate similarity in environmental condition among estuaries. Spatial-setting variables (location in a river, coastal lagoon, or in open waters) were associated with variation for some measures of estuarine condition. Patterns of coastal urban and agriculture gradients were measured and their relationship with indicators of estuarine condition was modeled statistically. When estuaries were pooled, the highest variation explained by spatial-setting variables was found for dissolved oxygen (DO, R 2 = 0.44) and salinity (R 2 = 0.58), with DO decreasing in river locations and salinity decreasing with rainfall and sampling locations near rivers. The explanatory power for the other indicator variables was low and varied from 6% to 27%. Rainfall explained some of the variation (R 2 = 0.23) in total suspended solids. Moderate (0.4 < | r | <  0.7) to strong (| r | ≥ 0.7) linear associations were found between total urban area and measures of estuarine condition. Within regions, total urban area was positively associated with Silver (r = 0.59), Cadmium (r = 0.65), and Mercury (r = 0.47) in Cape Cod, and inversely related to DO (r = −0.65) in the Hudson/Raritan region. No associations were found in the Delmarva Peninsula study area. Total area of agriculture showed a moderate association with Arsenic in Cape Cod, but no other associations were found in the other two regions. Our analyses show a measurable impact of urban land use on coastal ecosystem condition over large areas of the northeastern United States. This pattern was most evident when many different landscapes were considered simultaneously. The relationship between urban development and estuarine condition were weaker within the individual regions studied. The use of land use/cover models for predicting estuarine condition is a challenging task that warrants enhancements in the type, quantity, and quality of data to improve our ability to discern relationships between anthropogenic activities on land and the condition of coastal environments.


Landscape analysis Estuarine condition Water quality GIS 



We thank the North Atlantic Coast Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (NAC-CESU) at the University of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island Graduate Fellowship Office for partial funding of this research. We also thank Professor J. Heltshe for statistical advice, and the USEPA Atlantic Division in Narragansett, RI for data access. We gratefully acknowledge two anonymous reviewers that suggested changes that substantially improved the original manuscript.


  1. Anderson DM, Glibert PM, Burkholder JM (2002) Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication: nutrient sources, composition, and consequences. Estuaries 25: 704–726Google Scholar
  2. August PV, Iverson L, Nugranad J (2002) Human conversion of terrestrial habitats. In: Gutzwiller K (ed) Applying landscape ecology in biological conservation. Kluwer Press, New York, USA, pp 198–224Google Scholar
  3. Boyer EW, Goodale CL, Jaworski NA, Howarth RW (2002) Antropogenic nitrogen sources and relationships to riverine nitrogen export in the Northeastern USA. Biogeochemistry 58:137–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burroughs RH (1993) Nonpoint sources as external threats to coastal water quality: lessons from park service experience. Coastal Manage 21:131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burroughs RH, Lee V (1991) Cape Cod National Seashore estuaries: guidance for marine environmental monitoring and citizen participation. U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service, Narragansett, RIGoogle Scholar
  6. Castro MS, Driscoll CT, Jordan TE, Reay WG, Boyton WR, Seitzinger SP, Styles RV, Cable JE (2001) Contribution of atmospheric deposition to the total nitrogen loads to thirty-four estuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. In: Valigura RA et al (eds) Nitrogen loading in coastal water bodies: an atmospheric perspective. AGU, Washington, DC, pp 77–106Google Scholar
  7. Cohen JE (1994) Marine continental food webs: three paradoxes? Phil Trans Roy Soc London B 343:57–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Comeleo RL, Paul JF, August PV, Copeland J, Baker C, Hale SS, Latimer RW (1996) Relationships between watershed stressors and sediment contamination in Chesapeake Bay estuaries. Landscape Ecol 11:307–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conover WJ (1999) Practical nonparametric statistics, 3rd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Cloern JE (2001) Our evolving conceptual model of the coastal eutrophication model. Marine Ecol Prog Series 210:223–253Google Scholar
  11. Day JW, Hall AS, Kemp WM, Yanez-Arancibia A (1989) Estuarine ecology. Wiley, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  12. Dennison WC, Orth RJ, Moore KA, Stevenson JC, Carter V, Kollar S, Bergstrom PW, Batiuk R (1993) Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation habitat requirements for a polyhaline environment. Bioscience 43:86–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dyer KR (1997) Estuaries: a physical introduction. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Evgenidou A, Valiela I (2002) Response of growth and density of a population of Geukensia demisa to land-derived nitrogen loading, in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuarine Coastal Shelf Sci 55:125–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fairbridge R (1980) The estuary: its definition and geodynamic cycle. In: Olausson E, Cato I (eds) Chemistry and biochemistry of estuaries. Wiley, New York, pp 1–35Google Scholar
  16. Fedorko EJ, Pontius RG Jr, Aldrich SP, Claessens L, Hopkinson C Jr, Wollheim WM (2005) Spatial distribution of land type in regression models of pollutant loading. J Spatial Hydrol 5:60–80Google Scholar
  17. Hall SJ, Raffaelli DG, Thrush SF (1994) Patchiness and disturbance in shallow water benthic assemblages. In: Giller PS, Hildrew AG, Raffaelli DG (eds) Aquatic ecology: scale, pattern, and process. Blackwell Science, Oxford, pp 333–375Google Scholar
  18. Hobbie JE (2000) Estuarine science: a synthetic approach to research and practice. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  19. Hollister JW, Gonzalez ML, Paul JF, August PV, Copeland JL (2004) Assessing the accuracy of the National Land Cover Dataset at multiple spatial extents. Photogram Eng Remote Sensing 70:405–414Google Scholar
  20. Houghton RA (1994) The worldwide extent of land-use. Bioscience 44:305–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howarth RW, Sharpely A, Walker D (2002) Sources of nutrient pollution to coastal waters in the United States: implications for achieving coastal water quality goals. Estuaries 25:656–676Google Scholar
  22. Howarth RW, Bllen G, Swaney D, Townsend A, Jaworski N, Lajtha K, Downing JA, Elmgren R, Caraco N, Jordan T, Berendse F, Freney J, Kudeyarov V, Murdoch P, Zhao-Liang Z (1996) Regional nitrogen budgets and riverine N & P fluxes for the drainages to the North Atlantic Ocean: natural and human influences. Biogeochemistry 35:75–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kemp WM, Petersen JE, Gardner RH (2001) Scale-dependence and the problem of extrapolation. In: Gardner RH, Kemp WM, Kennedy VS, Petersen JE (eds) Scaling relations in experimental ecology. Columbia University Press, New York, USA, pp 3–57Google Scholar
  24. Kiddon JA, Paul JF, Buffum HW, Strobel CS, Hale SS, Cobb D, Brown BS (2003) Ecological condition of US Mid-Atlantic estuaries, 1997–1998. Marine Pollut Bull 46:1224–1244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krummel JR, Gardner RH, Sugihara G, O’Neill V (1987) Landscape patterns in a disturbed environment. Oikos 48:321–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Legendre P, Thrush SF, Cummings VJ, Dayton PK, Grant J, Hewitt JE, Hines AH, McArdle BH, Pridmor RD, Schneider DC, Turner SJ, Whitlach RB, Wilkinson MR (1997) Spatial structure of bivalves in a sandflat: scale and generating processes. J Exp Marine Biol Ecol 216:99–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Loveland TR, Shaw DM (1996) Multiresolution land characterization: building collaborative partnerships. In: Scott, JM, Tear T, Davis F (eds) Gap analysis: a landscape approach to biodiversity planning. Proccedings of the ASPRS/GAP Symposium Charlotte, NC, National Biological Service, Moscow, ID, pp 83–89Google Scholar
  28. Loveland TR, Merchant JW, Ohlen DO, Brown JF (1991) Development of a landcover characteristics database for the conterminous US. Photogram Eng Remote Sensing 57:1,453–1,463Google Scholar
  29. Malone TC, Conley DJ (1996) Trends in nutrient loading and eutrophication: A comparison of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson river estuarine systems. In: Sherman K, Jaworksi NA, Smayda TJ (eds) The northeast shelf ecosystem: assessment, sustainability, and management. Blackwell Science Inc., 238 Main Street Cambridge, MA, 02142 USA, pp 327–349Google Scholar
  30. Mann KH, Lazier JRN (1996) Dynamics of marine ecosystems: biological–physical interactions in the oceans. Blackwell Science Inc., 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142 USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Menzie CA, Hoeppner SS, Cura JJ, Freshman JS, LaFrey EN (2002) Urban and suburban storm water runoff as a source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to Massachusetts estuarine coastal environments. Estuaries 25:165–176Google Scholar
  32. National Coastal Condition Report (NCCR) (2001) (on-line) Report EPA620-R-01-005. Environmental Protection Agency, Office or Research and Development/Office of Water, Washington, DC.
  33. National Park Service (NPS) (2000) The national parks: index 2001–2003: offical index of the national park system. U.S. National Park Service. GPO: 2001-472-468/40002Google Scholar
  34. National Research Council (NRC) (2000) Clean coastal waters: understanding and reducing the effects of nutrient pollution. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  35. Nixon SW (1995) Coastal marine eutrophication: a definition, social causes, and future concern. Ophelia 41:199–219Google Scholar
  36. O’Connor TP (1996) Coastal sediment contamination in the northeast shelf large marine ecosystem. In: Sherman K, Jaworksi NA, Smayda TJ (eds) The northeast shelf ecosystem: assessment, sustainability, and management. Blackwell Science, 238 Main Street, Cambridge MA, 02142, USA, pp 239–257Google Scholar
  37. O’Shea ML, Brosnan TM (2000) Trends in indicators of eutrophication in Western Long Island Sound and the Hudson–Raritan Estuary. Estuaries 23:877–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ott WR (1995) Environmental statistics and data analysis. Lewis Publishers, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  39. Overton WS (1989) Design report of the environmental monitoring and assessment program. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, ORGoogle Scholar
  40. Overton WS, White D, Stevens DL (1990) Design report for EMAP: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program EPA/600/3–91/053. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  41. Paerl HW, Dennis RL, Whitall ER (2002) Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen: implications for nutrient over-enrichment of coastal waters. Estuaries 25:677–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Paul JF, Comeleo RL, Copeland J (2002) Landscape metrics and sediment contamination in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England Region. J Environ Qual 31:836–845PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Paul JF, Strobel CJ, Melzian BD, Kiddon JA, Latimer JS, Campbell DE, Cobb DJ (1998) State of the estuaries in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. In: Sandhu S, Jackson L, Austin K, Hyland J, Melzian B, Summers K (eds) EPA monitoring ecological condition at regional scales: proceedings of the third symposium on the environmental monitoring and assessment program (EMAP). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Albany, NY, USA, pp 269–284Google Scholar
  44. Paul JF, Gentile JH, Scott KJ, Schimmel C, Campbell DE, Latimer RW (1999) EMAP-Virginian Province four-year assessment report (1990–93). EPA 600/R-99/004. US Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, Narragansett, RI, USAGoogle Scholar
  45. Paul JF, Scott KJ, Campbell DE, Gentile JH, Strobel CS, Valente RM, Wisberg SB, Holland AF, Ranasinghe JA (2001) Developing and applying a benthic index of estuarine condition for the Virginian Biogeographic Province. Ecol Indicators 1:83–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Portnoy JW, Nowicki BL, Roman CT, Urish DW (1998) The discharge of nitrate-contaminated groundwater from developed shoreline to marsh-fringed estuary. Water Resour Res 34:3095–3104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Price K (1998) A framework for Delaware inland bays environmental classification. In: Sandhu S, Jackson L, Austin K, Hyland J, Melzian B, Summers K (eds) Monitoring ecological condition at regional scales. Proceedings of the Third Symposium on the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) Albany, NY, USA, April 8–11. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, USAGoogle Scholar
  48. Rodriguez W (2003) Remote sensing and landscape analysis of estuarine condition in the Northeastern United States. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Rhode Island: Kingston, Rhode Island, USAGoogle Scholar
  49. Roman CT, Jaworski N, Short FT, Findlay S, Warren RS (2000) Estuaries of the Northeastern United States: habitat and land use signatures. Estuaries 23:743–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Scheffer M, Hosper S, Meijer M-L, Moss B, Jeppesen E (1993) Alternative equilibria in shallow lakes. Trends Ecol Evol 8:275–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Short FT, Burdick DM (1996) Quantifying eelgrass habitat loss in relation to housing development and nitrogen loading in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuaries 19:730–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sklar F, Costanza R (1991) The development of dynamic spatial models for landscape ecology: a review and prognosis. In: Turner MG, Gardner RH (eds) Quantitative methods in landscape ecology. Springer-Verlag, New York, USA, pp 239–288Google Scholar
  53. Smirnov NV (1939) Estimate of deviation between empirical distribution functions in two independent samples. (Russian) Bull Moscow Univ 2:3–16Google Scholar
  54. Smith VH (1998) Cultural eutrophication of inland, estuarine, and coastal waters. In: Pace ML, Groffman PM (eds) Successes, limitations and frontiers in ecosystem science. Springer-Verlag, New York, USA, pp 7–49Google Scholar
  55. SPSS, Inc (2006) SPSS for windows, version 14.0, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  56. Steele JH (1985) A comparison of terrestrial and marine ecological systems. Nature 313:355–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Steele JH, Henderson EW (1994) Coupling between physical and biological scales. Proc Roy Soc London B 343:5–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stevens SM, Milstead B (2002) Northeast coastal and barrier network monitoring plan: Phase I, National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program, National Park Service, unpublished ReportGoogle Scholar
  59. Strahler AN (1966) A geologist’s view of Cape Cod. Parnassus Imprints, Orleans, MAGoogle Scholar
  60. Turner BL II, Skole D, Sanderson S, Fischer G, Fresco LO, Leemans R (1995) Land-use and land-cover change. Science/Research Plan (IGBP Report No. 35, HDP Report No. 7). IGBP of the ICSU and HDP of the ISSC, Stockholm and GenevaGoogle Scholar
  61. Turner MG (1989) Landscape ecology: the effects of pattern on process. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 20:171–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1990) Environmental monitoring and assessment program overview EPA/600/9-90/001. US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  63. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1995) Statistical summary EMAP estuaries, Virginian Province, 1993, EPA/620/R-94/026, 86 pagesGoogle Scholar
  64. US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). (1996) Final comprehensive conservation and management plan. New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary, Program Including the Bight Restoration Plan, New York USAGoogle Scholar
  65. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1997) An ecological assessment of the United States Mid-Atlantic region: a landscape atlas. EPA/600/R-97/130, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  66. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1998) Condition of the Mid-Atlantic estuaries. EPA 600-R-98-147, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  67. Valiela I (1984) Marine ecological processes. Springer-Verlag, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  68. Valiela I, Foreman K, LaMontagne M, Hersh D, Costa J, Peckol P, DeMeo-Anderson B, D’Avanzo C, Babione M, Sham C, Brawley J, Lajtha K (1992) Couplings of watersheds and coastal waters: sources and consequences of nutrient enrichment in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuaries 15:443–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Valiela I (1995) Marine ecological processes. Springer-Verlag, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  70. Vitousek PM, Aber JD, Howarth RW, Likens GE, Matson PA, Schindler DW, Schindler WH, Tilman DG (1997) Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecol Appl 7:737–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vogelman JE, Wickham JD (2000) Implementation strategy for production of National Land-Cover Data (NLCD) from the Landsat 7 Thematic Mapper Satellite EPA 600/R-00/051 Office of Research and Development. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  72. Vogelman JE, Howard SM, Yang L, Larson CR, Wylie BK, Van Driel N (2001) Completion of the 1990s National Land Cover Data set for the conterminous United States from Landsat Thematic Mapper Data and ancillary data sources. Photogram Eng Remote Sensing 67:650–652Google Scholar
  73. Vollenweider RA, Marchetti R, Viviani R (1992) Marine coastal eutrophication – the response of marine transitional systems to human impact: problems and perspectives for restoration. Proceedings of an International Conference, Bologna, Italy, 21–24 March 1990. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  74. Wang H, Hondzo M, Xu C, Poole V, Spacie S (2003) Dissolved oxygen dynamics of streams draining an urbanized and an agricultural catchment. Ecol Model 160:145–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Weisberg SB, Frithsen JB, Holland AF, Paul JF, Scott KJ, Summers JK, Wilson HT, Valente R, Heimbuch DG, Gerritsen J, Schimmel SC, Latimer RW (1992) EMAP-Estuaries Virginian Province 1990 Demonstration Project Report EPA 600/R-92/100. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, Narraganssett, RI, USAGoogle Scholar
  76. Wiens JA (1989) Spatial scaling in ecology. Funct Ecol 3:385–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Yang L, Stehman SV, Smith JH, Wickham JD (2001) Thematic accuracy of MRLC land cover for the Eastern United States. Remote Sensing Environ 76:418–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilfrid Rodriguez
    • 1
    • 5
  • Peter V. August
    • 2
  • Yeqiao Wang
    • 2
  • John F. Paul
    • 3
  • Arthur Gold
    • 2
  • Norman Rubinstein
    • 4
  1. 1.Department Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources ScienceUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ORD, NHEERLResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology DivisionNarragansettUSA
  5. 5.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA

Personalised recommendations